I didn’t get involved in the Lineker wars, mainly because I had other stuff on, but the affair triggered a little moment of realisation in me. That is: how conflation is used as a political weapon.
It probably always was, but today, in all this political and philosophical division, conflation seems to be everywhere.
The Great Conflation
the act or process of merging two or more separate sets of information, texts, ideas etc into one whole
The intention, with deliberate conflation, is often dishonest, usually to confuse. It’s a technique frequently used by lawyers in courts.
Often the conflation arises from actual confusion, however.
In the Lineker wars, Team Gary conflated the issue of free speech with that of impartiality. Yes, there is crossover in the Venn diagram. There always is, otherwise the conflation does not work.
Gary should be able to say what he likes. Free speech! Well, yes, but not if you are a BBC presenter, runs the other side of the argument. Presenters should be impartial. Many are, but so many are not it is no wonder people think the BBC is not impartial, but biased.
The issue that Lineker was arguing about has also been conflated.
Legal migrants, asylum seekers and refugees should be distinguished from illegal migrants and people trafficking, but the two have been conflated. Because of that conflation, it has become impossible to have a sensible conversation about immigration without emotions getting in the way and wild accusations of racism and all the rest of it being thrown about. (Racism itself is forever being conflated with other things to the point that now anything non-positive said about a person of colour can be construed as racist. Indeed now even positive things are being called out for being racist).
My plan in this article was to call out other areas of conflation, because once you see conflation, it’s very hard to un-see. The more people that see it, therefore, the better the chance of some kind of truth returning to public discourse.
I was planning to highlight a few areas of conflation, followed by a short discussion of each. But it turns out there are so many, to discuss each one would be exhausting both for reader and writer. So, instead, I’ve put together this list.
(Perhaps in future articles, I’ll come back and discuss individual conflations in more detail).
List of common conflations
Elections and democracy
Free speech and impartiality
Legal and illegal migration
The law and fascism
Justice and equality
Speech and violence
Journalism and activism
Opinions and facts
Statistics and truth
Europe and the EU
The state and society
Free markets and capitalism
Education and indoctrination
Free speech and hate speech
Morality and religion
Patriotism and nationalism
Brexit and take your pick
Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome
Cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation
Rights and privileges
Diversity and tokenism
Diversity and skin colour
Inflation and the price of the goods and services measured by CPI
Criticism and cancel culture
Science and pseudoscience
Debt and productivity
Clean energy and environmental sustainability
Climate change and environmentalism
Money and credit
Deposit and loan
Investment and spending
Skin colour and culture
Islam and terrorism
Fluctuations in the weather and man-made climate change
Price and value
Diversity quotas and equal opportunities
Morality and obedience
Aspergers and classic autism
Equity and equality of outcome
Diversity and conformism
Social justice and left-wing activism
Morality and leftist/progressive ideology
The NHS and quality healthcare for all
Income and wealth
Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Anarchy and chaos
Conservatism and right-wing ideology
Western representative democracy and true democracy
Two political parties and choice
Abortion and euthanasia
Wokism and caring about people
Beauty and truth (an ancient conflation)
The state and God
Conservatism and the Conservative Party
Classical Liberalism and the Liberal Party
Anything I don’t like and fascism
In fact, there are so many in politics, I think I should stop there. (Lots of other good ones have been suggested in the comments).
These are some of the many examples of things that have been conflated, leading to misunderstanding and misinterpretation galore. It's important to understand the nuances and differences between these concepts if you are to have informed and productive conversations about them.
I’m normally a proponent of the never-explain-as-conspiracy-that-which-can-be-explained-by-incompetence school of thought, but I am coming round to the view that a lot of this conflation is deliberate. I once saw a presentation by Professor Tim Evans which outlined the methods employed by Marxists to seize power. The goal of the Marxist, he argued, is to create chaos, then, from that chaos, secure power. Conflation leads to intellectual chaos.
There are, however, also the stupid, the not-so-well informed and the confused, and plenty of them, who know no better.
Please become a subscriber to the Flying Frisby and help this Substack get better.